Recent experimental measurements of overall atmospheric modulation transfer function (MTF) indicate significant difference between the turbulence and overall atmospheric MTFs, except often at midday when turbulence is strong. We suggest here a physical explanation for those results which essentially relates to what we call a practical instrumentation-based atmospheric aerosol MTF which is a modification of the classical aerosol MTF theory. It is shown that system field-of-view and dynamic range affect strongly aerosol and overall atmospheric MTFs. It is often necessary to choose between MTF and SNR depending upon dynamic range requirements. Also, a new approach regarding aerosol absorption is presented. It is shown that aerosol-absorbed irradiance is spatial frequency dependent and enhances the degradation in image quality arising from received scattered light. This is most relevant for thermal imaging. An analytically corrected model for the aerosol MTF is presented which is relevant for imaging. An important conclusion is that the aerosol MTF is often the dominant part in the actual overall atmospheric MTF all across the optical spectral region.